Beyond the Headlines

A "pathological gambling addiction"

Posted: Apr 20, 2012 8:50 AM ET Last Updated: Apr 20, 2012 8:50 AM ET
Harold David Wilson had it all.
 
The brash former radio talk show host was the King of Glace Bay. He won the seat in four provincial elections, and by all accounts, he could easily have won four more.
 
But David Wilson has a gambling problem.
 
Thursday, during Wilson's sentencing hearing for fraud, breach of trust and uttering forged documents, the court was told that a doctor who examined Wilson at the request of the prosecution service found he has a "pathological gambling addiction".
 
Wilson's love affair with gambling started in the mid 1990s when he started playing VLTs.
 
In 1999, after winning his first election, he started playing the slot machines at the casino, whenever he was in Halifax to attend the legislature.
 
By about 2005 Wilson was addicted. He started going to the casino three or four nights a week. He moved up to the "high rollers" room where you can bet as much as $100 on a single slot. His habit was costing him anywhere from $3,000 to $4,000 a week.
 
That's when he started stealing from the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.
 
In January, 2006 Wilson submitted his first false expense claim. The amount was $1,200. As with his gambling, he couldn't stop. Over the next four years Wilson submitted another 35 fraudulent claims totalling $61,000.
 
He didn't even stop when staff from the Auditor-General's office started poking into MLA expenses. Wilson says he lied to investigators when they first interviewed him in July, 2009. Even though he knew MLA spending was under scrutiny, he continued to file false expense claims.
 
The only thing that stopped him was getting caught.
 
But Wilson didn't just stuff taxpayers' money down those casino slots. Bank records, introduced in court, show that during a five-year period dating back to 2005, Wilson withdrew $130,716 from the three ATM machines inside the Halifax casino.
 
In 2001, Wilson took out a mortgage for $18,000 dollars on his modest home in Glace Bay. He re-mortgaged the home in 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2008. By the time he was forced to sell his home, the mortgage had grown to more than $100,000.
 
Moments before being sentenced, Wilson told the court he tried everything he could to stop gambling, but nothing worked. He spoke of his shame and humiliation. He apologized to his constituents, former colleagues, and the people of Nova Scotia. And finally, Wilson apologized to his family, especially his three children, for the pain and suffering he has inflicted on them.
 
Those of us in the courtroom saw firsthand the impact on Wilson's children. When the judge sentenced him to 9 months in jail, Wilson's 18 year-old daughter, who had sat stoically beside her father throughout the day, collapsed sobbing uncontrollably. Her older brother tried to comfort her, but she could not be consoled.
 
Those sobs were the last thing David Wilson heard as sheriffs led him out of court to begin serving his jail sentence.
Previous Post
Next Post

About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

Recent Entries

Falling through the cracks
Falling through the cracks
Apr 23, 1:32 PM

Nova Scotia's justice system is battered and bruised.  Two high-profile cases, both involving the alleged sexual assault of young people, have sorely tested the public's confidence in both the people... more »

Social media demands justice for Rehtaeh
Social media demands justice for Rehtaeh
Apr 10, 12:44 PM

On Tuesday, Justice Minister Ross Landry learned first hand the power of social media. It's a lesson he's learning the hard way.Earlier in the week, Leah Parsons turned to social... more »

Investigating the police
Investigating the police
Mar 22, 6:12 PM

Last April the province unveiled its brand new Serious Incident Response Team. The agency was established to conduct independent and transparent investigations of all serious incidents involving police officers.The idea... more »

View the Beyond the Headlines Archives »